published Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Haslam, Corker subpoenaed: UAW summons 2 dozen to appear at NLRB hearing

SUBPOENAED BY UAW

• U.S. Sen. Bob Corker

• Todd Womack, Corker's chief of staff

• Micah Johnson, Corker's press aide

• Gov. Bill Haslam

• State Economic Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty

• Will Alexander, Hagerty aide and son of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander

• State Sen. Bo Watson

• Tres Wittum, Watson aide

• State House Speaker Beth Harwell

• State House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick

• Maurice Nicely, of Southern Momentum

• Southern Momentum

• Tim Spires, who heads the Chattanooga Regional Manufacturers Association

• Ron Harr, Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce CEO

• Grover Norquist, who heads Americans for Tax Reform

• Matt Patterson, Center for Worker Freedom

• Tucker Nelson, Americans for Tax Reform

• Walter Orechwa, Projections Inc.

• Jim Gray, president of Jim Gray Consultants

• Peter List, of Kulture Consulting

Those to be subpoenaed:

• State Rep. Mike Carter

• State Sen. Todd Gardenhire

• State Rep. Richard Floyd

• Don Jackson, former VW plant manufacturing president

Source: NLRB filing

The United Auto Workers is serving subpoenas on 24 people, including Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, for a planned hearing on its appeal of February's Chattanooga Volkswagen plant vote.

Also, the UAW is seeking communications and documents of those subpoenaed relating to VW, the UAW and government incentives from Jan. 1 to the present, a filing with the National Labor Relations Board shows.

In addition to Haslam and Corker, most of the Hamilton County legislative delegation, including state House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick, R-Chattanooga, and state Senate Speaker Pro Tempore Bo Watson, R-Hixson, have been named as witnesses for the April 21 NLRB hearing.

Other high-ranking state officials on the subpoena list are Tennessee Economic Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty and state House Speaker Beth Harwell.

Local people subpoenaed include Ron Harr, the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce's chief executive; Tim Spires, who heads the Chattanooga Regional Manufacturers Association; and Maury Nicely of the anti-union group Southern Momentum.

Grover Norquist, of the Washington, D.C.-based Americans for Tax Reform, and Matt Patterson, of that group's Center for Worker Freedom, were subpoenaed as well.

No VW plant workers were named, and neither was the National Right to Work Foundation, which is an intervenor in the NLRB case, representing several employees of the automaker.

However, former VW plant manufacturing President Don Jackson was to be subpoenaed, the UAW said in the filing.

The UAW lost the election seeking union recognition at the plant by a 53 percent to 47 percent margin and appealed for a revote to the NLRB, claiming interference by third-party groups and politicians. The hearing is set to be held at the Hamilton County Courthouse.

The UAW did not return an email seeking comment on the subpoenas.

Haslam spokesman Dave Smith declined immediate comment.

"It's not appropriate to comment at this time," he said.

Todd Womack, Corker's chief of staff who also was subpoenaed, said that after "a stinging defeat, rather than respect the workers' decision, the UAW is trying to create a sideshow." He said the matter has been referred to legal counsel.

"We hope other people who might be inclined to consider the UAW will take this development as a cautionary tale," he said.

Nicely termed the subpoenas "truly a fishing expedition ... to harass individuals who oppose the UAW," and he expected that some recipients will challenge them.

He said the UAW's request for documents from all the individuals is overly broad.

"The hearing is on a limited issue," Nicely said.

He said he thinks the UAW didn't name plant employees because "that might backfire and anger the constituency they're trying to cajole."

McCormick said Wednesday that while he hasn't seen a subpoena yet, he will "just go and tell the truth and I think it'll work its way out."

The Chattanooga Republican, who was critical of the UAW during the election, recalled that what he said was a "political reality," that it's hard to get financial incentives for economic development projects OK'd. He said that to add the UAW, "that's basically an arm of the Democratic Party, would make it even harder to gather Republican votes."

An unresolved issue is whether VW will produce a new sport utility vehicle in Chattanooga. VW has said the Chattanooga plant is the front-runner for the SUV over Mexico. However, Haslam said last week that the state and the automaker are not negotiating over financial incentives and the SUV.

Dan Gilmore, a Chattanooga labor lawyer, said he wouldn't be surprised if some public officials challenge the subpoenas.

"They'll have an opportunity to oppose those," he said.

Gilmore said there may be some exemptions about testimony and documents related to economic development strategies the state has undertaken to attract a potential new vehicle line to the VW plant.

"That's something that may play into this," he said.

Gilmore said the NLRB case is "highly unusual," adding that the UAW appears to be "digging for all the information behind the scenes."

The UAW has asked that the April 21 NLRB hearing be delayed until another hearing can be held on documents revealed last week.

The leaked documents showed that Tennessee economic development officials last year offered nearly $300 million in financial incentives to the automaker to produce the SUV at the Chattanooga plant.

The state's offer sheet said the incentives were contingent on VW discussions about a works council at the plant being concluded to the "satisfaction" of the state. VW has said that a works council, a panel of employees who consider day-to-day plant issues such as training and safety and which it wants at the factory, requires a union under U.S. labor law.

Democratic politicians and UAW officials criticized Haslam and other Republican officials after the documents' release, saying the state was trying to strong-arm VW into not accepting the union.

Haslam and other Republicans, such as McCormick, Watson, and Corker, have criticized the union effort at the factory.

Staff writer Andy Sher contributed to this story.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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